Yesterday, 21st July, Pope Francis released his Message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation 2022 which opens this year’s Season of Creation 2022 on the 1st September and concludes 4th October, the Feast of St. Francis. This is a special time for all Christians to pray and work together to care for our common home. The very beautiful theme for this year’s Season of Creation is: “Listen to the voice of creation”.
Listen to the Voice of Creation
In his Message Pope Francis writes:
“If we learn how to listen, we can hear in the voice of creation a kind of dissonance. On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this our common home”.
In this Season of Creation, we pray once more in the great cathedral of creation, and revel in the “grandiose cosmic choir” made up of countless creatures, all singing the praises of God. Let us join Saint Francis of Assisi in singing: “Praise be to you, my Lord, for all your creatures” (cf. Canticle of Brother Sun). Let us join the psalmist in singing, “Let everything that breathe s praise the Lord!” (Ps 150:6).
“Tragically, that sweet song is accompanied by a cry of anguish. Or even better: a chorus of cries of anguish. In the first place, it is our sister, mother earth, who cries out. Prey to our consumerist excesses, she weeps and implores us to put an end to our abuses and to her destruction”.
Our responsibilities – individual, communitarian, governmental
Pope Francis also cites the COP27 conference on climate change, to be held in Egypt in November 2022 as the next opportunity for all to join in promoting the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement. Recently he has authorized the Holy See, in the name of and on behalf of the Vatican City State, to accede to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, in the hope that the humanity of the 21st century “will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities” (ibid., 65). The COP15 summit on biodiversity, to be held in Canada in December, will offer to the goodwill of governments a significant opportunity to adopt a new multilateral agreement to halt the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species.
” … there is need for a covenant between human beings and the environment, which, for us believers, is a mirror reflecting “the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying”. The transition brought about by this conversion cannot neglect the demands of justice, especially for those workers who are most affected by the impact of climate change.
There are also the poorest among us who are crying out. Exposed to the climate crisis, the poor feel even more gravely the impact of the drought, flooding, hurricanes and heat waves that are becoming ever more intense and frequent. Likewise, our brothers and sisters of the native peoples are crying out. As a result of predatory economic interests, their ancestral lands are being invaded and devastated on all sides, “provoking a cry that rises up to heaven” (Querida Amazonia, 9). Finally, there is the plea of our children. Feeling menaced by shortsighted and selfish actions, today’s young people are crying out, anxiously asking us adults to do everything possible to prevent, or at least limit, the collapse of our planet’s ecosystems.
Listening to these anguished cries, we must repent and modify our lifestyles and destructive systems.
“Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (Laudato Si’, 217).
As persons of faith, we feel ourselves even more responsible for acting each day in accordance with the summons to conversion.
Nor is that summons simply individual: “the ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion” (ibid., 219). In this regard, commitment and action, in a spirit of maximum cooperation, is likewise demanded of the community of nations, especially in the meetings of the United Nations devoted to the environmental question.
Four key principles
In order to halt the further collapse of biodiversity, our God-given “network of life”, let us pray and urge nations to reach agreement on four key principles:
- to construct a clear ethical basis for the changes needed to save biodiversity;
- to combat the loss of biodiversity, to support conservation and cooperation, and to satisfy people’s needs in a sustainable way;
- to promote global solidarity in light of the fact that biodiversity is a global common good demanding a shared commitment; and
- to give priority to people in situations of vulnerability, including those most affected by the loss of biodiversity, such as indigenous peoples, the elderly and the young.
Let me repeat: “In the name of God, I ask the great extractive industries – mining, oil, forestry, real estate, agribusiness – to stop destroying forests, wetlands, and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people”.
How can we fail to acknowledge the existence of an “ecological debt” (Laudato Si’, 51) incurred by the economically richer countries, who have polluted most in the last two centuries; this demands that they take more ambitious steps at COP27 and at COP15. Even the economically less wealthy countries have significant albeit “diversified” responsibilities (cf. ibid., 52) in this regard; delay on the part of others can never justify our own failure to act. It is necessary for all of us to act decisively. For we are reaching “a breaking point” (cf. ibid., 61).
During this Season of Creation, let us pray that COP27 and COP15 can serve to unite the human family (cf. ibid., 13) in effectively confronting the double crisis of climate change and the reduction of biodiversity. Mindful of the exhortation of Saint Paul to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep (cf. Rom 12:15), let us weep with the anguished plea of creation.
Let us hear that plea and respond to it with deeds, so that we and future generations can continue to rejoice in creation’s sweet song of life and hope.